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Here is an update about Omicron

According to an advisor to the provincial government, the Omicron coronavirus variation is spreading quicker in Gauteng, the heart of SA's newest epidemic, than the Delta strain or any of the preceding variants. This is the "fastest acceleration of community transmission ever seen in South Africa," Bruce Mellado said at a presentation on Thursday. This is "consistent with the prevalence of a more transmissible variety," he noted.

Bruce Mellado says SA has not seen an acceleration such as the one it is experiencing now.

On November 25, SA revealed the discovery of a new variety, subsequently dubbed Omicron, as cases increased and the strain spread throughout the world. Daily cases in the United States than quadrupled on Wednesday, only days after governments across the globe suspended flights to and from Southern Africa. Previous infections and the fact that around a quarter of South Africans are completely vaccinated may mitigate the disease's effect, according to Mellado, who uses modeling to forecast infection trajectory.

According to government scientists and actuaries at private organizations, between 60% and 80% of South Africans were infected during early waves of the virus. "Omicron seems to be migrating quicker than Delta, although our hospitalization rate appears to be slightly lower," said Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at Wits University in Johannesburg. "I'm confident that, although the overall number of cases will almost certainly increase, hospitalizations and fatalities will likely decrease."

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While prior infections and vaccinations may help prevent serious illness, authorities have observed a higher rate of "reinfections," indicating that "the population's susceptibility is greater," Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said during a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on Thursday.

Active cases in Gauteng are expected to peak at about 40,000 in the coming weeks, down from more than 100,000 during the third wave in the middle of this year, Mellado added. Hospitalizations due to Covid-19 are expected to increase to around 4,000, up from 9,500 in the third wave, he added. Gauteng has completely vaccinated 33% of its adult population via the administration of more than 7 million vaccinations.

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"Our province is on the verge of the fourth wave, in the sense that we are the primary focus of the new variety," Gauteng Premier David Makhura remarked on Thursday. "Infections are fast spreading, originating in the north of our province, in Tshwane - this is the epicenter of the revival." Since the finding of the Omicron variant was reported, vaccination coverage has grown in the province. Over 100,000 children and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old have been immunized, according to Adiel Chikobvu, a director in charge of health economics and funding at Gauteng's department of health.

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The WHO said that it will send a surge team to Gauteng to assist with surveillance and contact tracing. Salam Gueye, the organization's regional emergency director for Africa, said the organization was offering technical support to enhance the production and delivery of medical oxygen in Botswana, another country where Omicron has been found. — Reuters contributed more reporting


Bad news: Omicron spreading faster than Delta. Good news: fewer in hospital (

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Bruce Mellado Omicron SA South Africa United States


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